Don’t brand me, bro

IMing recently on Yahoo Chat, I noticed the other-party-status-report telling me the person I was chatting with was “hammering out a wicked comeback.”

Usually, this small gray line of text just says the other person “is typing.”


I wasn’t sure how what I had written would merit “a wicked comeback.” I mentioned it to my conversation partner and found out that one of our IM clients had inserted this snarky turn of phrase into our interaction all by itself.

Doesn’t it make you wonder how often your virtual communication is being framed in a way of which you are unaware–and which may or may not have any real connection to

  • what you are communicating
  • your personality
  • the context of the interaction

Don’t get me wrong–I like that companies are shooting for a more authentic and playful voice. But in this case, the locus of the voice was inappropriate.

Bill Breen wrote in Fast Company:

“Our sense of what’s “real” in this post-postmodern world takes on all kinds of strangely distorted shapes and guises, as if it’s reflected back at us from a swirl of fun-house mirrors.”

When a distinctive voice gets thrown into the mix in a way that makes it seem like part of someone’s personal communication, it’s really that person that’s getting branded, not the company. I don’t want the personality of my software superimposed on my communication.

When tools start speaking for the user, rather than the user speaking through the tools, it just makes communication more difficult.

Related posts:
Meet the New Authenticity
Mundane is the New Fun


About Steve